Kiwi climbing hero Athol Whimp

Athol Whimp and me in Venice, February 1999

Athol’s great partner Andrew Lindblade emailed this picture to me this morning. Andy took it in February 1999, in Venice, California, when he and Ath had an LAX layover on their way back to Australia from France, where they’d been awarded the Piolet D’Or for their spectacular ascent of Thalay Sagar’s North Face. I’d driven down from Santa Barbara to spend a couple afternoon hours with them. We ended up on the Venice Beach boardwalk, an anecdote that constitutes “The Alpine Tribe” Horizontal Interlude in Enduring Patagonia (pp. 168-171).

I’d met Athol in Patagonia after his February 1994 solo of Cerro Torre’s Compressor Route. I’d bumped into him and Andy the following fall in Yosemite, and we shared a campsite for two or three hilarious weeks. Andy moved to the United States in the late 1990s, and I’ve seen him many times through the years. Athol and I kept in loose touch, but I hadn’t seen him again until 18 months ago, when he and Andy drove down from Portland for a week of action in Yosemite. Quiet and a little withdrawn until you’d earned his respect, clever and hilarious once you had, and hard, disciplined, driven, keenly intelligent, and positively brimming with life, Athol was one of the people in the world I most admired. I think the partnership profile I wrote about him and Andy is the best piece of climbing writing I’ve ever done. (Right mate, Let’s Get On With It, Climbing No. 231, June 2004).

Athol and Andy’s son Aki in the Grampions this past January.

Athol was killed in a climbing accident in New Zealand a few weeks ago. It’s hard to fathom; it hardly seems possible. The world is a lesser place without him in it.

Andy’s book Expeditions is one of the greatest modern climbing books, too — particularly among those that don’t depend on death or injury to provide their drama. I’ve read it twice and will surely read it again someday. It’s an incredible account of his partnership with Athol.

Athol on Lunatic Fringe, 2010
Athol on Lunatic Fringe, 2010

[UPDATE: 1/30/2013: In response to the requests I’ve had for Right Mate, Let’s Get On With It, I’m prepping it for ePublication. Andy sent down some of his best photos for inclusion, and I’m hoping to have it ready for eRelease within the next fortnight.]




cover 3Took longer than I thought, but here it is: Right Mate, Let’s Get On With It on Amazon for $0.99



    1. Joe, I don’t think so… although I’ve got an iron in the fire that hopefully will make it available. I’ll post a link to it if I can pull it together. Cheers, GC

  1. The world is certainly a different place with out Athol in it. Thank you for describing him so well, and for keeping the link to him alive. We all learned from the way he lived his life with such intent. Even his death teaches us lessons about life, the fragility and preciousness of it all. An incredible man.

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